Both Psychoanalytic and Cognitive psychology have presented highly influential theories that are present in modern psychology. In comparing the two paradigms, we see that there are many contrasting, as well as some similar, ideas. Cognitive psychology is defined as “the application of the scientific method to the study of mental processes, which are assumed to be physical and which underlie behavioural phenomena.” (Hunt and Ellis 1999) In contrast to this, psychoanalysis suggests that childhood experiences and unconscious thoughts influence behaviour. Ulric Neisser was one of the main proponents of cognitive psychology, which began to develop in the 1960s. After World War Two, psychologists wanted to comprehend human performance, which arose an interest in information processing. It was the arrival of the computer that initiated cognitive psychology.
It provided the core belief that human and computing processing systems resembled each other. People were becoming dissatisfied with behavioural approach and its lack interest in internal processes and so the cognitive revolution began. Psychologists became interested in both the science of mind and not just behaviour. Cognitive psychology can be expanded into three key beliefs; the first stating that the mind can be studied scientifically, the second that human beings are information processors, where mental processes guide behaviour, and the third that mental processes are influences by social and cultural factors. Cognitive psychologists believe that our brain hosts a mind, which allows you to remember, make decisions, plan, set goals, and be creative. (Reed, 2004, Stenberg, 2003) It is also believed that we acquire, store, and retrieve information through the use of mental processes.
Cognitive psychology focuses on mental processes such as learning, perception, memory, attention, problem-solving, reasoning and language, which are studied using the scientific method. Cognitive psychologists believe that these psychological processes are related to both physical energy from the environment and the central nervous system, and that a fundamental goal in each of these domains of cognitive psychology is to identify constraints that allow organisms to explore alternate possibilities. Human behaviour arises from how we perceive and shape information from our surroundings into meaning. The analogy that information processing in humans resembles that in computers allows cognitive psychologists to use computers as tools for understanding how the human mind processes information. It’s beliefs stem from the “information processing paradigm”, which suggests that information from our surroundings is processed by our brains by a number of different processing systems. The information is then transformed and organised by the different processing systems.
The multi-store model (MSM) in cognitive psychology focuses of the how memories are stored in the brain, and proposes that information is stored in three stages. It explains how information from the environment is brought to a sensory register, then though attention, enters short term memory. If the information is rehearsed and retrieved, it will be brought to long term memory. If rehearsal does not occur, the information will be forgotten.
(Atkinson and Shiffrin 1968) A study done by Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) supported this idea of two separate storage systems. In their experiment, they recorded a primacy effect whereby the words recalled by a group after completing a distractor task where often the words memorised first, because they had been transferred to long term memory (LTM). Psychoanalytic theory was proposed by Sigmund Freud in 1896. It focuses more on the psychology of humans relating throughout life and the deeper source of behaviour, not just the mental processes that cause it, like in cognitive psychology. Psychoanalysis deals with emotion, sexuality, imagination, action, motivation, development of character, mental illness, and culture. It addresses the inward emotional state and self-knowledge and the outward experience of human relating.Freud based his theory on three main assumptions: the first, that the unconscious mind has much more power over shaping our personality than our conscious mind.
He explained this with the analogy of an iceberg, where the main body, being the unconscious, cannot be seen beneath the surface, but it’s the foundation for what can be seen. The second was the idea that the unconscious mind consisted of 3 elements; the id, the ego, and the superego. All of our decision making is an attempt to balance these provinces, where the id, demonstrates a more hedonistic point of view, acting on impulse and pleasure, while the superego would act selflessly and morally. The ego therefore is the sense of self, lying between the two. The third assumption, assumes that childhood experiences are extremely important in the development of our personality and can predict behaviour. Freud explains this in his model of psychosexual development.
The fourth assumption focuses on defensive mechanisms. Freud believed that these mechanisms kept threating ideas and thoughts out of our consciousness, which sometimes could result in opposite impulses in seeking to cover up feelings of hostility. Finally, Freud also places an importance on libido. He believed it be a natural energy that fuelled the mind, and was essential in completing the psychosexual development stages.
In Freud’s model of psychosexual development, there are four stages; oral, anal, phallic and latent. In the oral stage, a child’s main development comes from feeding, and a fixation in this stage may result in binge eating, or nail-biting. In the anal stage, children will go through toilet training, and an adult fixation could lead to messiness in adulthood. In the phallic stage, children (usually between three to six years of age) will recognise the different sexes. Sometimes males at this stage will view their fathers as competition for their mother’s affection (oedipus complex), and girls will look at their mothers as competition for their father’s attention (electra complex). If this stage in development is not resolved, Freud believed it could lead to sexual dysfunction in adulthood.
The latent stage, (ages six to twelve) was most important for social and communication skills, and is the only stage that does not have an adult fixation. The genital final stage, from twelve years old onwards, children start to reach sexual maturity and start to develop sexual interests. According to Freud, once all of the stages are completed, one has reached sexual maturity and should be mentally healthy. Similarly, in cognitive psychology, Piaget outlines stages of child development in Cognitive development theory. However, they are not sexual, like Freud would claim, and are more focused on children’s use and evolution of mental processes.
Freud also believed that the unconscious part of the mind was what gave real insight into a person’s true feelings. By studying the unconscious, you would expose certain occurrences in the past that influence the manner in which we behave. He did this through various techniques such hypnosis, free association, and dream analysis. He believed that because dreams were representations of our unconscious thought, they could reveal certain aspects of our past that have affected our being. In psychoanalysis, the aim is for the patient to find understanding and meaning, and hence experience a relief. Psychoanalytic therapy relies heavily on communication, as it attempts to tell the truth to someone about the way they are behaving thinking and feeling.
In doing so, the person can better understand themselves as a person and identify what makes them feel or act the way they do.As a result of cognitive psychology’s scientific nature, knowing what cognitive processes to measure and how to measure them was a challenge. Since it is not possible to observe what is going on inside the brain, cognitive psychologists have to rely mostly on reaction times to measure mental processes, and generate relevant experimental studies. Psychoanalytic theory is often criticized because it too logically opaque.
Many of its concepts are unobservable therefore there can be no official evidence to support it; assertions about unconscious processes are unverifiable. (Wegman 1985) As well as this, Freud believed that all psychological problems have their roots in childhood experiences, which is when development occurs, when in fact some traits are caused by genetics and development is not limited to childhood: people continue to develop through their lives. In terms of modern psychology, psychoanalysis has had a lasting impact in almost all area of psychology.
It also led to the investigation of psychopathology. It was the foundations of the beginning of another approach in psychology; psychodynamics. This approach is based on Freud’s ideas regarding psychoanalysis, but also took into account ideas of his followers. This approach has become a lot more popular than psychoanalysis in the contemporary world because it portrays a more rounded perspective on human functioning, however it still focuses on how internal drives and forces in our unconscious can form behaviour. Most importantly, psychoanalytic psychology has left an impact on how mental illness is treated. In psychoanalysis, the therapist looks for patterns or events that may have led to the client’s problem. It was founded by Freud who used methods such as free association, exploration of the transference, and dream interpretation to reveal thoughts form the unconscious mind.
In free association, a patient is told to share unfiltered random words that enter their conscious, regardless of how incoherent they may be. In the exploration of the transference, the patient redirects any feelings they may feel towards certain people or things towards the therapist instead. Dream interpretation deals with understanding the unconscious thought by making sense of dreams, in order to discover any underlying thoughts that trigger unhealthy habits. Cognitive psychology has also given substantial contributions many areas of modern psychology.
Due to the study of the operations carried out in the brain in cognitive psychology are useful to social, clinical and applied, and developmental psychology. However, the main contribution in both cognitive and psychoanalytical psychology has been in mental health treatment. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CTB) differs greatly to psychoanalysis, and is the most practised form of treatment of mental illness used in modern times. It was proposed by Ellis (1959) and Beck (1960) and is a symptom based treatment whereby the therapist helps the patient to identify the issues concerning them and the patterns that are causing them harm. Some of the main differences between the two treatments is the idea of understanding the origins of the issue the client is struggling with. In psychoanalysis, there is a focus on childhood experiences, which are discussed in therapy.
It is also believed that psychological pain must be understood before it can be eliminated. CBT however, focuses on the eradicating the symptoms and replacing them with healthy practises. The therapist will often help the patient form goals and keep monitor of the patient’s mood or reactions, often by keeping a diary. The aim of the therapy is to replace the patters that are causing the patient harm with healthy, productive patterns.
One of the criticisms of CBT is that the origins of the issue are not dealt with or understood, and is sometimes seen as a ‘quick fix’ for some cases. Another difference, would be that in general, CBT is more short term, usually lasting only a couple of weeks, whereas in psychoanalysis therapy could go on for as long as a few years. In terms of the better form of therapy, there are still studies being carried out that support either one or the other. In general, CBT is a much more common form of treatment, however it is also the most practical, cost efficient, and often most applicable for the majority of cases which are not as severe, and is the reason it is used in schools and colleges, and even work places